My Hero Academia’s new season risks sliding into shounen pitfalls

I’ve been a big fan of My Hero Academia since All Might burst through the door to save his students from the Nomu, and I’ve written about why I think the fights in the show are some of the best in shounen anime history.

However, with the first half of season five wrapping up soon, I’ve noticed that the show is falling into a few of the same pitfalls and issues that most shounen anime fall into eventually.

That’s not to say that the most recent season isn’t worth watching or doesn’t have some bright spots, but it does highlight how the show’s pacing and themes are becoming more typical to the genre.

Just as a warning, there will be some spoilers for the latest season of the My Hero Academia anime ahead, so brace yourself if you’re still catching up or following along with the English dub.

My Hero Academia Class 1b

This season of My Hero Academia is, broadly speaking, a tournament arc, with groups of students from Class A taking on groups of students in Class B in a low-stakes battle royale to showcase how their skills have grown and developed over the year. Because they are all still in their first year at UA, which is a frightening thought in itself. The first several episodes of the arc exist primarily to introduce the characters from Class B that we haven’t met yet.

There are some really cool character designs being introduced here, of course. The Manga Hero (whose name is Manga, just to be extra confusing) is a really fun concept that plays out well in the anime. The goth-off between Shihai and Tokoyami was also entertaining. But there are a lot of characters to introduce, each with their own personality and quirk to remember. Considering how many characters there were in the show to begin with, this is seriously bordering on character bloat at this point. We’re not at Bleach levels just yet, but it is getting there.

I’ve talked about how a good tournament arc needs something at stake to be interesting to the viewer and that’s one of the first places this season has tripped up. For Deku and his friends, there isn’t anything to gain or lose during these episodes besides bragging rights. We get some cool reveals from characters like Iida, but this isn’t even an exam for them. They lose nothing aside from their pride if they fall short.

My Hero Academia

The only character with any stakes in this fight is Shinso, who is attempting to transfer onto the hero course. The show already tends to give characters a single moment to shine before pushing them back to the background (Iida, I’m looking at you) so that Bakugo and Deku have more screen time to scream and cry, respectively. I’m not convinced Shinso will continue to matter beyond this arc even if he manages to make his way onto the hero course.

My Hero Academia has always had wavering stakes. Season four saw the characters attempting to rescue a young girl from a criminal organisation followed by the all-important school festival. Even in the more slice of life episodes, there was the sense that the characters lose something through failure or gain something through success, even if it was seeing Eri learn how to smile again.

My Hero Academia

Again, there are some bright spots in this season that shouldn’t be missed. Iida’s new ability is beautifully animated when he gets a chance to show it off and we get some interesting background on One for All, but the slog of characters that get introduced and the lack of anything to gain or lose for the main cast means that these episodes would probably be better served as a binge once the arc has wrapped up rather than followed week on week.

Catch all of My Hero Academia, both in Japanese and English, on Funimation.

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